Animal Cognition

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 283–292 | Cite as

Copying without rewards: socially influenced foraging decisions among brown capuchin monkeys

Original Paper


An individual’s foraging activity can be influenced by the choices made by nearby conspecifics. The interest shown in the location and characteristics of a feeding patch may depend on the feeding success of a conspecific there, a process that needs to be distinguished from choices guided by rewards to the observer itself. We investigated how rewards for both self and others influence the foraging choices of captive capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Thirteen adult capuchins observed familiar female conspecific models explore one of three opaque boxes under three conditions. In the first, there were no rewards available to either monkey; in the second, rewards were available to the model only; and in the third, both monkeys could retrieve a reward. Under all conditions, subjects more often explored the same box as the model than was expected by chance. Thus, without ever receiving a reward themselves or without seeing another receive rewards, subjects’ searches were directed at the box explored by another monkey. The tendency to match the model’s choice increased if the subject was rewarded. We compared these results to control conditions in which the model was either absent, or present but not allowed to demonstrate. Subjects’ located the reward less often in control conditions, than in the experimental conditions. We conclude that extrinsic rewards, while helpful, are not required for partners to influence the foraging choices of capuchins, and that the unrewarded copying of foraging choices demonstrated here may provide the basis for additional social influences on learning.


Socially biased learning Social learning Stimulus enhancement Reinforcement 



This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the senior author, an NSF graduate research fellowship to the first author, and by a grant from the National Center of Research Resources division of the National Institutes of Health to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. We thank Jason Davis, Marietta Dindo, Jamie Cohen, Hanie Elfenbein, Colleen Gault, and David Sung for assistance with testing and data collection, Ryan Earley for statistical advice and Elena Cunningham, Charlie Janson and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We are grateful to the animal care and veterinary staffs at the Yerkes National Primate Center for maintaining the health of our study subjects. The YNPC is fully accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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